I ate breakfast at 78 different places in the Bay Area last year.* Want to know what memories have been seared onto my brain lobes due to horror, disaster or sheer awkwardity? Read on.
Mel’s Drive-in – multiple locations (I was in the SOMA one) – $$
Shockingly, the food was not terrible here, but my experience was overshadowed by a language barrier incident. The Italian (or possibly Brazilian) man sitting five feet away from me was trying to order and spoke almost no English. He pointed at the menu and asked for an omelette. Then this happened:
Waitress: What kind of cheese do you want?
Man: Omelette – yes I want omelette.
Waitress: But what kind of cheese?
Man: (points at the menu) Omelette, yes!
Waitress (slowly, like he is willfully misunderstanding her): We have American, Cheddar and Swiss.
Man: Yes! (now agitated, getting hungrier and more embarrassed)
Waitress: (emphasizing each word) But – what – kind – of – cheese – do – you – want?
Man: YES, Omelette please! (on the brink of despair)
Waitress: What — kind — of — cheese — American — Cheddar — or — Swiss?
Man: (pointing emphatically at the menu, getting ready to curse America and everything it stands for): YES!
Me: (embarrassed, indignant and uncomfortable) Just choose for him!
Waitress (looks at me questioningly and raises her eyebrows): Okay, guess I’m going to have to do everything for this one. (pauses) What kind of toast do you want?
Me: (falling over dead)
Waitress: I guess he’ll just do sourdough.
Rose’s Cafe – The Marina – $$
Put simply, this place sucked. The food was overpriced but average, and even tasted as smarmy as the service. Only come here if your yacht’s broken down and you can’t escape. Rose’s Cafe, you can suck a lemon.
Cafe de la Presse – Union Square – $$
I’d been wanting to come to this place for a while because it looked fancy and shiny and pretty. So I was excited about eating here, but it ended up sucking, so that sucked. I sat down near a window that happened to be open. Keep in mind that this is the morning in San Francisco where the air feels like a damp fridge. I was cold so I asked them to shut it and the waiter sighed and went to close it while he told me, “Ma’am, we are trying to cool down the restaurant,” like I was the dumbest person in the world. He left a crack open.
I wrote down the name of this restaurant as “The other place in Burlington.” The only other note I have about this is that it was “forgettable.”
Munch Haven – Civic Center – $
While the first thing you might notice about this place is the questionable name, the second thing you’ll notice will undoubtably be the smell – something like egg grease, cigarette smoke and dirty shirts. On the plus side, there were pictures of styles of egg dishes (fried, scrambled, sunnyside up, etc.) as well as the different kinds of cheese you could order. This is probably very useful for people who don’t speak English (see note on Mel’s).
Most continually disappointing yet bafflingly popular restaurant
The Grove – multiple locations – $$
This restaurant will woo you with its fine appearance and tasteful furnishings. It says all the right things and makes you feel special and you’re optimistic that things will work out. Then, on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd date, it ditches you in the middle of a meal, sticks you with the bill and you find out later it stole your wallet, phone or passport. And the meal wasn’t that good either. Stop dating this guy. No fourth date.
Joanie’s Happy Days Diner – Fisherman’s Wharf – $$
Happy days had turned into sad mornings the Friday I visited this restaurant. I remember the sound of the fridge humming, the television turned to Channel 6 news, fluorescent lighting and a mysterious sense of guilt. Maybe some more patrons would have made me feel less lonely. Was it my fault for visiting at 7 am, right when it opened? I think not.
Runner-up: Chestnut Diner – Marina/Cow Hollow – $
*Full list of breakfast places here: 78 Breakfasts in the Bay Area